Sure, drones are useful for capturing some video on vacation or snazzing up your house’s Zillow listing. But beyond these consumer uses, drones are serious business. From helping first responders save lives to enabling farmers to protect their crops, drones are playing an increasingly important role in the public and private sectors.
The problem is that these so-called ‘unmanned’ aerial vehicles require a significant amount of human input when it comes to things like flying the drones, changing their batteries, and analyzing the footage they collect.
Miami native Curt Lary is working to change that by developing tools to usher in an era of aerial autonomy.
Lary founded Hextronics, a Miami-based startup that has developed a drone battery charging and launching station. Think of Hextronic’s system as a base where the drone lives. “You say ‘launch’ and it goes out and captures a bunch of video data, and then sends it back to eventually get analyzed by automatic algorithms,” Lary explained to Refresh Miami.
There are a handful of use cases Lary and team are exploring. For instance, inspecting crops: “If I’m a corn farmer, I want an app that specifically helps me analyze corn, go through each field of crops, analyze them from a bird’s eye view in order to tell me which regions aren’t getting enough water or which regions have pests.”
There are also public sector applications like enabling police departments to remotely monitor situations while keeping personnel at a safe distance. Equally, construction firms can leverage Hextronics’ system to constantly monitor the progress at building sites.
Hextronics’ stations are weather resistant and are capable of operating in temperatures as low as 0°F and as high as 120°F. They have minimal downtime, enabling drones to swap batteries in less than five minutes. And the systems are connected to the cloud, working off WiFi, ethernet, or cellular data.
Hextronics’ system is built for DJI’s flagship drone, the Mavic 2. The startup is currently working with FlytBase, an enterprise drone automation platform, as their software partner so that Hextronics can focus on the hardware side – for now at least.
Lary initially came up with the idea for Hextronics while studying for an undergraduate degree in engineering at Georgia Tech. His graduation a year early coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. Lary took advantage of the timing to return back to Miami and begin building Hextronics out of his family’s garage.
Since the garage days, Hextronics has expanded to a 10-person core team, including Kristian Aspi, lead software engineer, and Simrone Shrestha, business and communications manager (both pictured at top of post). That’s on top of another 50-odd consultants and contractors, he said. Lary has raised sufficient funds from family and friends to enable the development of working prototypes and an initial product. But he said that he expects to start looking for venture capital funding towards the end of this year or early next year.
“I really hope that Hextronics can be a part of the hardware development that drives the Miami tech ecosystem forward,” asserted Lary. He feels positive about the growth of the South Florida tech scene, and Hextronics’ place in it. “We’re excited to build Hextronics’ headquarters, which we call the Hexquarters, here.”
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